Emmanuel Sanders Released by Saints After 1 Season with Team

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistMarch 10, 2021

New Orleans Saints wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders (17) runs in the second half of an NFL football game against the Kansas City Chiefs in New Orleans, Sunday, Dec. 20, 2020. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)
Butch Dill/Associated Press

The New Orleans Saints are set to release veteran wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders.

ESPN's Adam Schefter reported the news Wednesday, and Sanders confirmed the move in an Instagram post:

Nick Underhill @nick_underhill

Emmanuel Sanders announced the move on his Instagram. https://t.co/hcm4pwLABx

New Orleans signed Sanders to a two-year, $24 million contract last offseason. Per Brad Spielberger of Pro Football Focus, releasing him will save the Saints $4 million against the salary cap with $6 million in dead money.

Spielberger noted that even with the move, the Saints are about $30 million over the cap.

In his only season in New Orleans, Sanders finished with 61 receptions for 726 yards and five touchdowns in 14 games.

As No. 1 wideout Michael Thomas missed nine games last season because of injury, Sanders led Saints wide receivers in catches, receiving yardage and receiving touchdowns.

He ranked second behind running back Alvin Kamara in receptions and receiving yardage and second in touchdown catches behind tight end Jared Cook.

With Sanders out of the picture, Tre'Quan Smith may have to fill the No. 2 wideout role on a more permanent basis behind Thomas. In 14 games last season, Smith reeled in 34 passes for 448 yards and four touchdowns.

The Saints may also look to address the wide receiver position in the draft, especially since they don't figure to have much money to play with in free agency.

New Orleans owns the No. 28 pick in the first round of the 2021 NFL draft. LSU's Ja'Marr Chase and Alabama's DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle figure to be gone by that point, but Florida's Kadarius Toney, Purdue's Rondale Moore and Minnesota's Rashod Bateman stand out as potential targets.

As for Sanders, who turns 34 this month, he shouldn't have much of an issue finding a new landing spot given all he has accomplished during his 11-year NFL career.

In 158 games with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Denver Broncos, San Francisco 49ers and Saints, the two-time Pro Bowler has made 662 receptions for 8,619 yards and 47 touchdowns.

Although he has not reached the 1,000-yard mark since 2016, Sanders has remained a reliable and consistent producer.

He also has plenty of big-game experience, having played in three Super Bowls, winning one with the Broncos in 2015.